Though she won't put a timetable on when activist Chen Guangcheng will be able to leave China with his family and go to the United States, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said today that "we're certainly making progress."
And she hopes to soon "be welcoming Mr. Chen to the United States to pursue the studies he wants to do," Clinton told NPR's Michele Kelemen during an interview in New Delhi, where the secretary of state was wrapping up a week-long trip through Asia that also included stops in China and Bangladesh.
Of the criticism that some have leveled at the U.S. for its handling of Chen's case, Clinton said she is "very proud of the extraordinary professionalism and commitment of our diplomats."
Michele's interview with the secretary of state is due to air on today's Morning Edition. We'll add the as-broadcast version to the top of this post later. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.
Chen, a blind, self-trained lawyer who has worked to expose Chinese policies on forced abortions, escaped from house arrest on April 22 and spent about a week at the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Just as Clinton was to arrive in China for talks, Chen left the embassy after receiving what U.S. officials said were assurances from Chinese authorities that he could live freely. But within hours after arriving at a hospital for treatment of injuries he suffered during his flight from arrest, Chen was telling U.S. authorities and journalists that he feared for both his and his family's safety and wanted to leave China.
Friday, a potential solution surfaced: Chinese authorities said Chen could apply to study abroad; U.S. authorities said he could come to the U.S. That deal is still being worked on. Clinton said U.S. officials continue to meet with Chinese authorities, and that the U.S. side is "at the point of getting all our arrangements finished."
Chen remains at the hospital in Beijing.
Today, according to The Associated Press, he said "the Chinese government has quietly promised him it will investigate abuses he and his family suffered at the hands of local authorities — a rare instance of Beijing bowing to demands of an activist."
And Chen told NPR, as Louisa Lim reports, that he's confident he will be able to leave China for the U.S. The government, he was told, has given its word. Still, he fears that his supporters will suffer.
On other issues, Clinton said:
-- India has "certainly made progress" in cutting its oil imports from Iran, which is an important step in enforcing economic sanctions aimed at convincing Iran to give up any ambitions for nuclear weapons.
-- She is "going to miss" her job as the USA's top diplomat (Clinton has previously said she would not be part of any second Obama administration). "It's an incredible rush to represent the United States of America," she said. "It's been the most extraordinary experience and privilege that I could ever imagine. ... But it's in my view time to move on."
Also before heading home, Clinton said that "the latest foiled bomb plot targeting an airliner is an indication that, while the device did not ultimately pose a threat, terrorists remain determined," CNN writes:
" 'These terrorists keep trying ... to devise more perverse and terrible ways to kill innocent people, and it's a reminder as to why we have to remain vigilant at home and abroad in protecting our nation and in protecting friendly nations,' Clinton told reporters at a news conference in New Delhi."